In the early hours of the morning, prior to my daily clash with the electronic enemy that skulks about my writing table, I found myself sans the necessary caffeine to prove myself a formidable opponent. Donning apparel that went out of it’s way to not only uphold, but bolster the ‘harried writer’ look, I found myself eyeing the Exxon nestled at a quasi-quiet, but quaint intersection at 3144 Dickerson Pike.
With bleary eyes and caffeine-deprived vision, I maneuvered my way through the sea of yellow bags that took the gas pumps hostage, indicative of their inability to plan ahead, and entered the store. Grabbing my chosen beverage, I stood on line and chatted up the customer in front of me about rabbit hunting while we waited…and waited…and waited.
The young woman before us was purchasing a money order and appeared to pay for most of it in coin. Honestly, that wasn’t an issue. I’m far beyond the age of impatience and usually, I’m in no rush to go anywhere. What I am NOT beyond the age of however, is blatant insolence and lack of professionalism. And trust me, the two employees behind the counter had both, in spades. As the imaginary clock in my head approached ten minutes, I approached the counter. Placing my soon to be shot of creativity (and hopefully, a chapter before day’s end) on the counter, I took a breath of anticipation, reached for my wallet, and pulled out my debit card. The young man (later identified as Xavier) gave a cursory smack of his lips and asked, “Uh…is that cash?” I furrowed my brow and held the card high, “No,” I responded, “It’s debit.” He exhaled sharply through his nose and started to void the transaction. I looked about register area, searching for any signs that may have alluded to his “cash only” edict and found none. I did however, lock eyes with the older woman busy arranging her till on the nest register. My search for validation was met with an all too familiar roll of the eyes. I grabbed my soda and returned it to the cooler from whence it came. “Might I suggest,” I began, “That you apprise the customers of that prior to their making it to the register before they stand in line for ten minutes?”
Laughter from behind the counter caught my attention. The older woman (later identified as ‘Ms. Williams’) continued to smirk as she glanced at me from over the counter. “I’m sorry, ma’am,” I offered, “That was not meant to be funny. Some of these people are on their way to work and have their time down to minutes.”
She waved her hand and offered me a more defined smirk, “I ain’t got nothing to do with you,” she said. “With all due respect, ma’am,” I countered, clasping my hands to send an subconscious signal of non-combativeness ( I am a shrink, after all), “You are an employee here. You have everything to do with me. I am a customer.” As if I didn’t get the suggestiveness of the first hand wave, she offered another, complete with verbal direction, “Not if you ain’t got cash, you ain’t.”
Having begun my exit, I returned to the counter to get their names. “Williams,” she said both, loudly and proudly. The young man showed just as much pride in announcing his name, even sticking his chest out to ensure that I had a clear view. I smiled politely on the outside, but inwardly, I was Mt. Etna. Nevertheless, I relayed none of that through my tone. “You know,” I offered politely, “you should really watch how you talk to people, I may just be from corporate.”
As I started the next chapter to my next novel, I had to break away and let the effects of the caffeine kick in. In the realm of customer service, it seems that Exxon has wrapped the concept in a shroud and is enjoying the eulogy, sarcastically delivered by their bottom line. I would like to say that I don’t think that the behavior of their employees is indicative of Exxon’s overall mission statement, but honestly, I can’t. It seems that more and more today, Customer service has been replaced with Customer Serve-US.
You know, I’m privileged to be in a position to pen a world as only I see fit. And until I’m finished with the final installment of “The Faith Series”, I think I’ll stay away from my friendly, neighborhood Vexxon and frequent the Mapco a block down the street. You should join me. At last glance, they had NO yellow bags on their gasoline pumps; all were operating, and…you may just see me. If you do, say hello. And if you have a copy of one of my books, I’ll be more than happy to sign it for you.